The second recovery happened in the late 70’s both in the UK and SA with Richard Longman winning the British Saloon Car Championship two years in a row driving a 1293 Clubman …1978 and 1979. In South Africa where the Bullnose 1275 S remained eligible for racing, Ron Samuel driving the Jimmy Burt prepared 1293 regularly won the 1300 class and set record Mini lap times, essentially matching the all-conquering times put up by the Gordinis before their departure.
The story of the Cooper S is as much about the overall prowess in racing as it is in the ingenuity of race engineers. When one considers that the homologation documents approved for competition in 1964 and updated in 1966/7 were essentially the same basic production spec which was applied through to the early 80’s, the continuous improvement in race-pace is truly staggering. Let me give some numbers using the old Kyalami as an example of quick lap times evolving through the years:
1966 1:56.6 George Armstrong
1971 1:48.4 Giv Gioviannoni
1978/79 1:43.4 Ron Samuel (Car built by Mini ‘Superboffin’ Jimmy Burt)
What is significant here is the cars were built from the original homologation specification but developments in Engine tuning, Tyres – including wheel sizes, Brakes and obviously preparation resulted in the improvement…the engine base being the same 1275 S spec engine from 1964.
TUNING THE COOPER S.
When we talk about tuning production car engines of the 60’s and I have mentioned this often before, three machines jump out of the woodwork…Ford Kent (Aka.. Cosworth), Chevy smallblock and the BMC ‘A’ S-range. These three pieces of magic came about in three different ways:
The four cylinder Cosworth Fords covered new tech ground and needed the in-house TLC of the Cosworth engineers to provide hardware to the masses. Tuning firms soon caught-on but the thrust of the endeavour remained with Cosworth. Ongoing tuning of the base-version pushrod Kent engine also remains a brilliant engineering achievement, with top engines eventually matching the best Twin Cam power outputs achieved in the 60’s
The small block Chevy is in my opinion at No1 and resulted from an amazing alliance between the factory boffins like Zora Duntov and Vince Piggins along with the burgeoning aftermarket tuners like Smokey Yunick who absolutely loved the machine. This loosely linked team went on to produce the widest range of specialist parts for an individual engine design in history and more race applications than any other.
The BMC ‘A’ series was unique in that given that the engine was basically an old fashioned, long stroke/small bore relic, the work done by BMC engineers making the package strong enough to handle the rigours of competition allowed aftermarket tuners to get involved and to achieve incredible power outputs in myriads of applications. Similar to the Chevy, the availability of both Factory and aftermarket specialist components is unmatched by any other four cylinder machine in history. Alternative cylinder heads, valve train components, carburetion, internal engine parts, gearbox and final drive ratios, suspension components and a host of other applications provide what amounts to a Supermarket of available bits. Prospective Mini racers were/are spoilt for choice and the difficulty is not the availability… but making the right choices.
Let’s talk magic numbers again.
In the 60’s and 70’s the number that all tuners running pushrod two valve engines aspired to, was the magic 100Bhp/litre. We were all mesmerized by the ‘new world’ Cosworth four valvers at 130 Bhp/Litre with their 10 000Rpm capability but while this was going on, BMC based tuners were hard at work extracting power from their rather ancient piece of cast iron. I’ve said it before and say it again…astonishing.
There were two clear schools of development brought about by the rigours of competition. The first, those who relentlessly stuck to the original cast iron five port Cylinder head configuration and those who moved to take advantage of cylinder heads like the Arden Aluminium and Weslake Cast Iron Eight Port Cross Flow units.